This being my third pregnancy, you’d think I was a pro at giving birth. Well, after my 16-hour labor with number one, you’d think that would earn me some sort of pro status. Even still, I know that every birth is different and that scared me. Going in to my third pregnancy, I had certain reservations because my first two had gone so well. Could I be so lucky once again? I felt my time was running out. Not to mention the fact that my open-mindedness from my first pregnancy was becoming a lot more closed off. I did a good amount of research for my first and had a good sense for what I hoped for in the birth. But having done far more reading and fact gathering, my mind was beginning to close off and strongly oppose certain options I had previously been open to. I began to have this feeling that if things didn’t go as planned, I would somehow be disappointed and left to deal with those emotions post-partum. So how did it all turn out? Let’s start at the beginning….
Five days before my due date, I woke up with mild contractions around 2:00 a.m. They came off and on without much regularity or intensity. I tried my best to sleep, but knowing that this meant the end was near, task lists and details began running through my head. I got little sleep that night. The contractions did not increase at all as I went about my day. I hesitated telling anyone because I assumed I still had plenty of time. I did tell my husband before he left for work and I also called my mom. With having to make plans for the whereabouts of the two older kids, I needed to at least inform a few people. But I refrained from making any Facebook status updates. After all, I had a history of going post-due. Would this child really come before the due date?
Around 9:00 p.m. they began to come more regularly, but were still not intense. I started to think that perhaps the baby would be arriving soon since both my first labors had followed this same pattern of early morning contractions followed by little action the next day and then active labor that night. But I was still having a difficult time making a decision as to whether or not the grandparents should get in place for the kids. I had a fear that this wasn’t going to progress into active labor and then my parents would’ve had a sleepless night on our couches for no reason. At 11:30 p.m., I was still being indecisive, but called Mom anyway. We finally decided it would be best if they came up since it would take an hour for them to get here and we didn’t want things to progress faster than they could drive.
Around 1:30 a.m., my parents were in place and we headed to bed. I slept for about an hour when sleep no longer became an option. My contractions were growing in intensity and coming more frequently though their spacing was not completely consistent. They would be 7 minutes followed by 10 minutes apart and then down to 5 minutes. Back and forth they’d go. So, I laid there, breathing through them, still in denial that I was heading into active labor. Finally around 4:30 a.m., I woke Matt to say that he should probably get dressed because we might want to consider going to the hospital at some point. Yes, I was still indecisive even though they were getting to be as close as 4 minutes apart. The thing is, the pain was tolerable. I was still breathing through them. I had begun rocking and swaying to ease through them, but in between, I was still talking and joking just fine. My history had been that once into active labor, I stopped talking and shut out the world around me until delivery.
After getting dressed and packing my bag, the contractions had slowed slightly, so instead of heading out the door, we watched an episode of “30 Rock.” I might’ve missed a joke or two here or there, but otherwise I was still focusing on the show. If it weren’t for the fact that my contraction counter app was saying the contractions were back down to 4 minutes apart, I probably would’ve fired up another show. Instead, we decided to head to the hospital.
On the way there, one of my fears began to come true. To this day, I am certain that part of the reason my first labor was so long is because I went to the hospital too soon, which caused me to stall. After reading Ina May Gaskin’s thoughts on the sphincter law, I understand how such a transition can cause labor to actually reverse to a certain degree. I still wonder how things would’ve gone differently with my first delivery had I stayed home longer. So, when my contractions slowed with this one and I had only one on the way there, I was afraid we were regressing. While it was great that I wasn’t squirming and contorting my body the entire way to the hospital, it was upsetting because that meant the last two contractions were 10 minutes apart. I began to wonder if we’d made the wrong call. Should we have watched more Hulu before heading in?
We walked into the hospital at 5:30 a.m. I was still clear minded and able to talk. Again, I doubted whether or not this was for real. In triage, I was able to answer all of the nurse’s questions and even cracked a few jokes. When I arrived during labor #2, I was near transition and was 9.5 cm dilated. There was no joking at that point. When the resident finally checked me, I was very relieved to hear I was 7 cm and would be heading to my birthing room soon. And the tub was already being prepared for me.
The tub was part of my birth plan. I had labored in it with #1 for a long time, but got out before delivering. I wanted to attempt a water birth with #2, but she arrived too quickly to even make it into the tub. The nurse asked if I wanted to just labor or actually birth in the water. I told her definitely labor, but I still wasn’t sure about birthing. She went on to encourage me to try a water birth. She said it was really amazing. I was so impressed that she was actually recommending a water birth. That put me at ease for being in the hospital where hands-on interventions can oftentimes trump natural experiences.
The tub was ready for me once we got into the delivery room. My midwife hadn’t arrived yet, but the nurse helped me into the tub. The water felt great and offered some relief as my contractions gained intensity. Even still, I was talking in between contractions and at times thinking to myself, “Okay, let’s get this show on the road and have this baby already.” Then transition hit.
I had horrendous back labor with my first two pregnancies. So far, the back labor hadn’t hit with this one. But once I entered transition, I began to feel it with full force. I had taken somewhat of a squatting position in the tub, leaning over the backside of it, so Matt could rub my lower back through each contraction. This was his main role in the first two labors and we joked that he nearly rubbed off his fingerprints during both. By this time, my midwife had arrived, but was with another woman who was near delivering. We were told to pull the call button cord if I felt the urge to push. A nurse came in and out of the room, but for the most part, it was the two of us just hanging out, waiting for our baby and it suited us just fine. Having been through this before, we knew how to work our way through it as a team.
By now I had begun vocalizing during contractions. This was all new to me, but it helped give me release. I was embarrassed at first. After all, the door to my room was open and I thought I would scare off any laboring woman who had any inkling of trying for a natural birth. After hearing me, there was probably an increased demand for epidurals. And then the urge came on.
I had reached that point in labor when I was done. I didn’t know if I could deal with it anymore. Should I give in and get a shot of Nubain? I had in the past, but it had never done anything for me. Could I hang on? But what if I still had an hour to go? But then the urge to push hit. Mid-contraction I yelled, “Pull the cord!” Not thinking Matt heard me the first time (though I was certainly less than quiet about it), I yelled it again. He assured me that he had pulled it and in a moment two nurses and my midwife were by my side. With the jets on in the tub, I couldn’t hear well. I thought the midwife was telling me to push. So I did. I realized later that I hadn’t been checked since I was admitted. How did I (or the midwife) know if I was complete? Well, my body knew well enough because I began pushing, which was such a relief. They asked me if I wanted to get out of the tub. At that point, I was focused on one thing: having this baby. I didn’t want to be moved. I was good where I was. Suddenly I felt the baby descending followed by my water breaking. Being able to push made the contractions so much more bearable. I had something to do, a goal and an end in sight. With some good, strong pushes, the baby was born at 7:42 a.m.
The midwife declared, “It’s a girl!” and placed Adelyn on my chest—all 8 lbs. 3 oz. and 21.5 in. of her (not too shabby for being 4 days ahead of schedule). Adelyn let out a few small whimpers and then began to fall asleep. She was so at peace, or as her name means, serene. We stayed in the tub for a while, waiting for the cord to stop pulsing. As I held Adelyn in my arms, the midwife cleaned us up and soon we were moving to the bed. As I stood, I was amazed by how good I felt. In fact, I did not require any pain relief even after birth. Sure my body needed rest and relaxation, but otherwise I felt great. The hospital gave us ample time and space to bond. We stayed in the room for a few hours. I ordered breakfast and Adelyn nursed. And nursed. And nursed.
Looking back, I am still amazed by a few things: how quickly it all went, how smooth it was, how little assistance we really needed, how peaceful she was at birth, what a great nurser she was from the start and how great I felt once labor ended. I soon realized my initial fears and hesitations were for naught. And I also realized how blessed I have been to have had the births I’ve had.
Meagan Church is a writer, children’s book author and Unexpectant’s mom-in-charge. She lives in the Midwest with her high school sweetheart, three children, two cats and one dog. Her passions include running, black coffee, and simple, yet intentional living. Connect with her on Twitter @unexpectant, Pinterest or Instagram. To learn more about her freelance writing, visit her website www.MeaganChurch.com.